Thursday, February 02, 2012

January Book Reads!

It's that time of month again, where I regale you with what I read. Last month's reading included 10 books. My goal is 120, while I am also reading 52 books from around the world. Those will be delineated with an asterisk.

01. The Three Musketeers*, Alexandre Dumas.

It's no Monte Cristo, but the adventures of D'Artagnan and his friends the three Musketeers of the title are entertaining. And the character of Milady is as fascinating as it gets in fiction. I rather wish (SPOILER ALERT FOR 200 YEAR OLD BOOK) Dumas hadn't killed her off, because she was a formidable foe. And I don't like the way she went out, it wasn't true to who she was.

02. Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher

Fisher's hilarious memoir of her substance abuse, her movie star family, and of course THAT MOVIE (George Lucas ruined my life is the title of one chapter!) kept me literally laughing out loud the entire time I was reading it. Can't wait to read more of her books.

03. Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man, Chaz Bono

A memoir of an identity search, Bono tells us how he always felt uncomfortable in his own skin. While his writing can come off as a little sexist, I think it's also his way of working through his issues with women and his shifting paradigm. I found it a fascinating read.

04. Bossypants, Tina Fey

I expected laugh-out-loud with this one. I didn't get it, but it also didn't disappoint. She reminded me of how much I loved (and still do) love improv. And I like that she didn't sugarcoat the glass ceiling for women in comedy. Highly recommended.

05. The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, Julia Quinn

Julia Quinn writes good romance. Holy crap does she ever. Her heroines are Jane Austen-esque, but not in a rip off sort of way. And when she rips those bodices, dayum isn't the word! It's nice and refreshing to read a girly book that doesn't tax my feminist sensibilities.

06. Among Others*, Jo Walton

I will copy and paste my review from Goodreads because I think it sums this book up:
This book is the book for those little girls who grew up reading science fiction and fantasy, who were a bit outside of their peers, who were loners. This book is for me. And I loved the great use of historiography -- I have a wishlist chock full of scifi writers I hadn't even heard of thanks to this book. I know this year is young yet, but this is the best one I've read.

07. The Virgin's Lover*, Philippa Gregory

I keep trying and hoping that Gregory will recapture the magic from the first parts of this series. I am so disappointed -- there was a lot that could have been done with Robert, Amy, and Elizabeth. Instead she went for cliches. I wanted nothing to do with any of them after the first 30 pages.

08. Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Teresa Frohock.

A debut novel, this is the story of another world between ours and Hell. Lucian betrayed his lover to save his sister, but she didn't want saving. When he encounters the young Lindsay and saves her from Hell, he is given a second chance. A taut and gripping read, with just the right mix of fantasy and reality. I couldn't put this down. I couldn't believe this was a debut, because it was so intense and polished. Definitely worth a read.. It was my 2nd 5 star book of the year.

09. Some Dream for Fools*, Faiza Guène

The story of a young Algerian immigrant in France as she goes about her day to day life and struggles to keep food on her plate and her brother out of jail. I actually found this pretty funny -- I think that Ahlème is a very relatable character. Guène's characters are sparkling, and the scenes she spins are a great look at the underbelly of France.

10. 4000 Years of Uppity Women: Rebellious Belles, Daring Dames, and Headstrong Heroines Throughout the Ages, Vicky Léon

Like the women in war book I read in December, this book celebrates both well and lesser known women. I was happy to find a lot more emphasis on women outside of Europe and 20th century North America. They're short bits on each woman, but Léon has a bibliography for further reading.

Right now I'm working through 2 books: Smilla's Sense of Snow, Peter Hoeg, and World Without End, Ken Follet. They're slow going because they are long, and I will probably switch on and off from another couple of books in the interim. IN the mean time, you only have til 23 March to read THE HUNGER GAMES, dammit.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book wrap-up!

Now let's talk about my best/worst list for books.

Worst Book: Rosamund's Revenge, Madeleine Conway. TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE BOOK. This wasn't surprising though.

Unexpected Terrible Book: The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory.
Even if her books are never historically accurate there is enough bodice ripping and good imagery to go around. This book was historically accurate and SO COMPLETELY BORING.

Worst Series: Three Days to Dead, Kelly Meding. There's a whole series behind these books but I stopped after one. SO predictable.

Unexpected Surprise, Nonfiction: Hunting Eichmann, Neal Bascomb. Saw this on a National Geographic special and thought I knew the story. It kept me turning pages like nobody's business!

Unexpected Surprise, fiction: The Sookie Stackhouse series, Charlaine Harris. SHUT UP DON'T JUDGE ME. The last few books were mediocre bordering on terrible, but those first few? HELL YEAH.

And now, dun dun dun:
Runner Up Best Series of the Year: Parasol Protectorate Series, (Gail Carriger). A great fun steampunk Victorian series.

Best Series of the Year: Feed, by Mira Grant. They're a trilogy about zombies. I didn't expect to like it but I can't stop thinking about it. Amazing.

Runner up Best Young Adult Novel of the Year: A Northern Light, Jennifer Connelly. This was a book set in MY HOME REGION with a girl that reminded me a lot of myself. I may have shed a few tears. SHUT UP.

Best Young Adult Novel of the Year: Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta. A book that probably requires two readings, but is so spectacular and gripping you can't help but to finish it in one sitting.

Most Important Book I Read This Year: Shake Hands with the Devil, Romeo Dallaire. It's grisly, soul-destroying, and all true -- an eyewitness account of the genocide in Rwanda. It made me feel incredibly guilty as an American citizen.

Best Book of the Year: Feed & Deadline, Mira Grant. Seriously, I'm still thinking about these books months after I read them. SMH.

SO that's this year's wrap up! Stay tuned, I'm gonna post a meme that looks pretty awesome about reading habits next time.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Books, Yearly Roundup Style!

Okay, so according to my goodreads tabulator, I read 114 books. If I stick with their formatting -- the one that counts Time Machine and War of the Worlds as one book, I lose. If I don't, I win. So therefore, I win.

Roll Call!
01. Highway to Hell: Dispatches from a Mercenary in Iraq, John Geddes
02. Esperanza's Box of Saints, Maria Amparo Escandon
03. Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
04. The Lady in the Tower, Alison Weir
05. The Men Who Stare at Goats, Jon Ronson
06. The Translator: A Tribesman's Memory of Darfur, Daoud Hari
07. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, David Grann
08. Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab, Christine Montross
09. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
10. The Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell

11. A Place Where the Sea Remembers, Sandra Benitez
12. Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, Alison Weir (aka the book that Ate February)
13. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Lauren Willig
14. Playing Baseball With the Enemy: A Baseball Prodigy, a World at War, and the Long Journey Home, Gary W. Moore

15. The Manual of Detection, Jedediah Berry
16. Rough Justice, Peter Elkind
17. Ash, Malinda Lo
18. The Breaking of Eggs: A Novel, Jim Powell
19. The Better Part of Darkness, Kelly Gay
20. Poison, Sara Poole
21. Dime Store Magic, Kelley Armstrong
22. Harem, Dora Levy Mossanen
23. The Ghost Writer, Robert Harris
24. Fragile Things, Neil Gaiman
25. The Darkest Edge of Dawn, Kelly Gay
26. The Chess Machine: A Novel, Robert Lohr
27. Hunting Eichmann, Neal Bascomb

28. Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire
29. A Game of Thrones, George RR Martin
30. The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
31. Three Days to Dead, Kelly Meding
32. Podkayne of Mars, Robert Heinlein
33. Finding Nouf, Zoe Ferraris
34. Amalia's Tale: A Poor Peasant, an Ambitious Attorney, and a Fight for Justice, David Kertzer
35. The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory

36. and the shadows took him, Daniel Chacon
37. A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages, Kristin Chenoweth
38. Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters
39. Working for the Devil, Lilith Saintcrow
40. Sixty-One Nails, Mike Shevdon
41. Bury Me Deep: A Novel, Megan Abbott
42. Naamah's Curse, Jacqueline Carey
43. Telex from Cuba, Rachel Kushner
44. Blue Nude, Elizabeth Rosner
45. Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta
46. A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly

47. Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer, Jo Marchant
48. Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy, Sarah Bradford
49. Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Alison Weir
50. Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain, Portia de Rossi
51. The Greatest Knight, Elizabeth Chadwick

52. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
53. Heartless, Gail Carriger
54. Escape, Carolyn Jessop
55. Surrender the Dark, L.A. Banks
56. Guerrillas: Journeys in the Insurgent World, Jon Lee Anderson
57. Mistress of Rome, Kate Quinn
58. Slammerkin, Emma Donoghue
59. Blindness, Jose Saramago
60. The Bad Girl, Mario Vargas Llosa
61. PopCo, Scarlett Thomas
62. The Welsh Girl: A Novel, Peter Ho Davies
63. The Flanders Panel, Arturo Perez Reverte

64. The King's Pleasure: A Novel of Katharine of Aragon, Norah Lofts
65. Feed, Mira Grant
66. Point Omega, Dom Delillo
67. The Scarlet Lion, Elizabeth Chadwick
68. The Wars of the Roses, Alison Weir
69. Daughters of Rome, Kate Quinn
70. Classic Stories 1: The Golden Apples of the Sun/R is for Rocket, Ray Bradbury
71. Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves, Crystal Renn
72. Christ Stopped at Eboli: A Story of a Year, Carlo Levi
73. Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal
74. Dead Until Dark, Charlaine Harris
75. Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul

76. Chicks Kick Butt, Rachel Caine (ed.)
77. Rosamund's Revenge, Madeleine Conway
78. The Lady Matador's Hotel: A Novel, Cristina Garcia
79. A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood
80. Caesar's Women, Colleen McCullough
81. Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris
82. Club Dead, Charlaine Harris
83. The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, Simon Winchester
84. A Palace in the Old Village: A Novel, Tahar Ben Jelloun
85. Dead to the World, Charlaine Harris
86. Dead as a Doornail, Charlaine Harris
87. Rat Girl, Kristin Hersh
88. The Second Duchess, Elizabeth Loupas
89. Definitely Dead, Charlaine Harris
90. To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitane, Christy English
91. All Together Dead, Charlaine Harris

92. From Dead to Worse, Charlaine Harris
93. Snow, Orhan Pamuk (aka the book that ate October)
94. Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris
95. Dead in the Family, Charlaine Harris
96. The Other Tudors: Henry VIII's Mistresses and Bastards, Philippa Jones
97. Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris
98. Deadline, Mira Grant
99. Tomorrow Sucks, Greg Cox (ed.)
100. A Partisan's Daughter, Louis de Bernieres
101. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

102. Louisiana Vampires, Lawrence Schimel
103. The Story of a Marriage, Andrew Sean Greer
104. America Libre, Raul Ramos y Sanchez
105. Grave Sight, Charlaine Harris
106. The Life of Elizabeth I, Alison Weir (aka the book that ate November)
107. The Time Machine, HG Wells
108. The War of the Worlds, HG Wells

109. Mr Cavendish, I Presume?, Julia Quinn
This was apparently book 2, but the first book just tells the story from a different perspective. I'll be reading it later, but for now I wanted to say I really enjoyed this romance novel. It had a pretty strong heroine, and there was a really really steamy bodice ripping scene. YES IT DID.

110. Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Philip K. Dick
A neglected classic for me, but I picked it up for 50c at Goodwill, and I really enjoyed it. I have a soft spot for dystopias. I want to rewatch the movie though.

111. The Illuminator, Brenda Rickman Vantrese
Much like Weir's Captive Queen, this is the story of a middle aged woman trying to survive in a man's world. And it's very bleak and depressing and ends terribly. I didn't like the ending at all -- it made little to no sense. Whatever, it satiated my need for historical fiction.

112. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
I think this book loses something in today's world -- we don't have childhoods like these anymore, they're not that 1950s idyll that we imagine and harken back to. I do think that this book is more suited to television and movie than the text.

113. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury.
Even more prescient today than it was when it was written. We're actually picking up on a lot of the tech he discusses -- the television in any room, projection tvs, the ability to direct and control what we see on the the television. However, the afterword and commentary completely soured me. Instead of responding to critiques about the lack of characters of other races or including women in his stories for more than decoration, he says that the critics should write their own stories and he'll continue to write his just white male universe. SMDH.

114. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith
Surprisingly, I didn't care about the mysteries. I liked the flashback sequences, the descriptions of the country, the people. I really enjoyed everything in the book. I can't wait to read more of this series!

115. Hell Hath No Fury: True Stories of Women at War from Antiquity to Iraq, Rosalind Miles and Robin Cross.

YES this was great! It couldn't include anyone and everything, and I take a bit of dismay in the fact that a lot of women from Asia and Africa were merely described and not named, but I hope they'll expand on this topic in future texts. And what was wonderful were some of the source listings that they drew from, so I can harvest more stories of awesome women.

So that was my 115 books!

This year's challenge is to read 52 books from around the world -- each one from a different country. I received a kindle for Christmas, so this will be a bit easier, I think. I'm also gonna try to get 120 books in total this year, so I don't have to force it.

I will be posting my best/worst list sometime soon, so keep an eye out for that!